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No. 3 Penn State Men’s Volleyball Falls To No. 2 UCLA In Five Sets

Penn State men’s volleyball (15-2, 4-0 EIVA) was outmatched 3-2 by UCLA (18-1, 4-0 Pac-12) in its opening match at the Outrigger Challenge in Honolulu, Hawaii. UCLA came for revenge and delivered to best Penn State in a matchup of two top-three teams in the country.

The Nittany Lions dropped the first two sets but couldn’t manage to complete the reverse sweep despite 15 points from Michal Kowal and a strong performance from John Kerr off the bench. Ido David tallied an impressive 21 kills for the Bruins in the win.

How It Happened

The opening set in Hawaii started with back-and-forth action between both teams. Owen Rose gifted the Bruins a 10-9 lead after serving the ball into the net. Toby Ezeonu tied things up at 12 with an attack that painted the outside line for his first kill of the contest.

Ethan Champlin responded for UCLA via a kill of his own to tie the set at 16. Head coach Mark Pavlik was forced to call a timeout late into set one following a Merrick McHenry ace that gave the Bruins a 20-18 lead. UCLA finished the set strong and pulled away to win 25-20 after Cal Fisher committed an attacking error for Penn State.

The Nittany Lions didn’t start the second set well and fell behind 5-3 after multiple service errors. McHenry dialed up another service ace and Pavlik was forced to burn an early timeout down 7-4. Ido David notched back-to-back kills and everything was going the Bruins’ way. Rose recorded a service ace, cutting the deficit to two points at 14-12. His energy burst shortly gave the momentum back to Penn State.

UCLA head coach John Speraw called a timeout for the Bruins in an effort to stop the comeback. A Michal Kowal service error gave UCLA a comfortable lead heading into the later stages of set two as it lead 19-14. John Kerr did everything he could to get his Nittany Lions back into the set, and he lifted Penn State to 21-19 after two kills. David finished things off for the Bruins in the second set with another powerful kill for a final score of 25-22.

Penn State finally started a set on top and jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the third set. Alex Knight and McHenry fired off two kills following a UCLA timeout in response. Brett Wildman’s kill gave Penn State a 10-8 advantage moments later.

Cole Bogner struggled to handle the velocity from UCLA and the Bruins got the points right back and it was all tied up in the third set. A Rose kill gave the lead right back to Penn State and the third set was shaping up to be a tight one.

Back-to-back attacking errors by UCLA and a Kowal kill gifted the Nittany Lions a lead and forced a UCLA timeout as it trailed 18-13. Brett Wildman took over from there and picked apart the UCLA defense and the Penn State lead grew to 21-13. Kerr wrapped up set number three and the Nittany Lions bounced back to win it 25-16.

Wildman brought out his best service of the night and Penn State led 3-1 early in the fourth set. The Bruins struggled offensively and the Nittany Lions extended their lead to 8-3. David’s kill forced Pavlik to call a timeout with the lead only 10-8. Kerr continued to have a strong night and his serve brought the score to 16-12.

UCLA’s Troy Gooch notched a kill and brought the score to within one at 19-18. Fisher subbed on for Kerr late in set four and scored the final two points for the Nittany Lions on an ace and kill to run away with the 25-21 set score.

Penn State forced a fifth and deciding set and it started evenly matched and tied at three early on. A UCLA service error kept things tied at six apiece. Both teams continued to trade points back and forth into the midway point of the set.

The Bruins went up 10-8 after Wildman committed a service error and Pavlik called a timeout. UCLA took the set and scored six unanswered points. David’s kill halted the comeback for the Nittany Lions and won the set 15-10 and match 3-2.


  • The Nittany Lions could’ve taken a back seat and accepted an easy defeat after falling behind two sets. However, Pavlik’s team showed a lot of heart in battling back. It proves to be a good sign to see in a team with championship aspirations.
  • Penn State and UCLA are extremely well-matched teams. It took five sets for the Bruins to pull out the victory and the majority of the statistics on the night are just about even between both sides.
  • After strong performances against Concordia and UC Irvine, Fisher struggled against the Bruins. The graduate senior only had one kill all night and didn’t appear in two sets.

What’s Next?

Penn State is back in action for the second match of the Outrigger Challenge against No. 1 Hawaii at 12 a.m. on Saturday, March 11.

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About the Author

CJ Gill

CJ is a sophomore from McVeytown, Pennsylvania majoring in broadcast journalism and an associate editor at Onward State. He has the great privilege of living in central Pennsylvania...Which isn't so great. You can send all disagreements to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @CJGill14.

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